for years, black and latino gay men and men who have sex with men have been ringing the alarm on how HIV has been ravaging our communities. we have consistently been asked “where are the statistics? where are the numbers? where is the proof?” of course, our lives and experiences were never enough. we needed a government study to tell us what we already know. yesterday the proof arrived. are we surprised? fuck no! but that does not take the sting away.
according to a new CDC study,
1 in 2 black gay men and 1 in 4 latino gay men will become HIV-positive
if the current rate of infection continues. this shit means that black and latino gay men are more likely to contract HIV than white gay men. but
again, we have already known this – for years!
release of this report, there been a few articles shining light on
this and rightfully so. unfortunately, most have them failed to include the voice and perspective of
latino gay men. this cannot continue. just because an advocate says “gay
men of color” does not give them permission to speak for us – we have
our own god damn voice. to prove this fact, here are the responses of latino
gay/queer* men to the CDC report. our tongues are untied.
Eddie Santiago Beck – Miami, Florida
Luis Berrios, Philadelphia
Ayden Castellanos - Rio Grande Valley, Texas
Richard LaBoy – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Xander Lopez, – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Anthony Leon – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca, Washington, DC
I write this to all varones involved in and impacted by the two violent fights that took place in Philly’sGayborhood on March 11th and March 12th.
I wanted to address this issue because I understand that our silence means more violence. We may not hang out or even be friends on Facebook but our mere existence, the community we are inherently a part of, is what connects us. We have all walked the streets of North Philly either ready to fight or purposely falling deaf whenever we heard the word faggot. We have all had to become harder to protect our hearts, our mental health, our humanity and ourselves. This is what binds us. This is what now threatens to tear us a part.
It would be dishonest for me to say that I was anything less than horrified by the details of the violence that occurred. I would be lying if I said that I did not immediately and involuntarily choose a side by making someone right and someone wrong, a coping mechanism to explain the continued cycle of violence. But then I remember what my aunt Janet once told me, “People find power in the strangest places.” Her words echo through me, making sense of something senseless. On last Wednesday and Thursday night, a few found power in creating physical pain and watching rivers of blood flow.
Choosing sides does a disservice to the process of revealing the truth behind heartbreaking events like this. I am committed to not choosing sides because I know it is a set up. We, Latino gay/queer* men are set up to hate those who look and sound like us. We are socialized to be angry all of the time. I get it, survival of the fittest. You can cry, but fists must fly either before or after the massacre. I get it. We are sending a message.
No one will ever make us feel dumb again. No one will ever make us look stupid and if they do, then they must pay for every time someone made you feel less than human. I know, I have been there and even now I sometimes just want to rage and set the world ablaze when someone attempts to make it even more difficult to be a Latino gay man. But I don’t and Lord knows it requires so much faith in the beauty of the world that prevents me from starting that fire.
I wish we had as much courage to fight oppression, as we have to fight each other. I wish we knew that the presence of another gran varones’ magic is not the absence of our own. I wish we could remember that the pain of feeling ugly, dumb, fat and invisible is not an isolated feeling. I wish we knew that we are all fighting our own battles daily. I wish we knew that we are all enough and beautiful as we are.
I hope these recent or any violent event does not make you even harder. I hope that this does not dim any of the light that you provide the universe. It is our duty to stand with, by and for each other. Violence and anger will not sustain us. It cannot. It will not protect us from all that is working against us.
With this letter I am asking you to summon the courage to love yourself and each other harder. We must occupy this void. We must be willing to build a castle TOGETHER with all the bricks that society alone throws at us. Our survival requires no less. Until we recognize the beauty and wonder in each other as gran varones, we will always struggle with finding it in ourselves.
In love, community and solidarity,
Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca